It looks like the growing protests in Egypt might well lead to the collapse of the Mubarak regime. While certainly it is true that Eqypt has no oil fields and the suez canal isnt half as important as it used to be (most tankers are too big to use it and avoid it do to the pirates of the Gulf of Aden Uaaargh!). However, its one of the key players in the region. If Mubarak goes, the writing could be on the wall for Gadaffi and the Saudis.
The situation has put the West, the Americans in particular in a bit of a pickle. Backing Mubarak, as they would have almost certainly done in the past is out of the question. While the danger of a military crack down now seems to have passed, if one did happen and Obama supported Mubarak before hand, he may as well ring Mitt Romney (the most likely Republican candidate in 2012) and invite him around so he can measure up the curtains of the oval office.
Furthermore history is repeating itself here. The situation parallels how the ageing shah of Iran gradually lost his grip on power and very quickly thereafter his regime was toppled. Back then, the US made the mistake of supporting the Shah, which all but drove the protestors into the arms of the Islamists who punished the US by turning Iran from the USA key regional ally, into its main regional enemy. Similarly if the West backs Mubarak and he losses power then its likely whoever takes over, Islamist or not will not be too friendly with the West. So the moral, democratic and politically sensible thing would seem to be to back the protestors and pressure Mubarak to take an extended vacation ..in Saudi Arabia!
But backing the protestors, while it seems the morally correct thing to do doesnt guarantee things will work out well. There are the Islamists to worry about. The primary inspiration for Al-Queda is more Egyptian than Saudi, who merely provides the finance. While often seen as a largely spent force these days, there is a risk that the Muslim Brotherhood could make a come back and use the momentum of the protests to take power. If so, they wont give a two-penny damn whether or not the US helped pressure Mubaraks removal. While theyll probably hold elections it would only be to give them (or more to the point Allah, or at least their interpretation of his words) permanent power. Egypt would likely quickly become a Theocratic state, and theyd probably attack Israel, though the Israelis would just kick the shite out of them they do. But either way it could destabilise the region.
On the other hand backing the protestors carries another risk. What if, despite it all, Mubarak hangs on? Unlikely now yes, but hes survived 30 years and still has the backing of the Army (or so it seems). Also the protestors are leaderless and many such movements have failed to achieve a breakthrough in the past, as lacking viable leadership people have gradually tired of the constant protesting. Its possible (just) that the whole thing will just blow over and hell prevail. Of course if he does and the West pressured him to go hell then be none to pleased with the Americans and might opt to punish them somehow such as by signing a trade or arms deal with the Chinese or North Koreans (or Iranians!).
So its a tricky situation for world leaders to sort out. Fortunately for Ireland, weve the perfect excuse right now, no foreign minister! nor Taoiseach! as an election campaign starts tomorrow. Perfect timing aye :>>!